Franciscan Health expands services for growing Burmese population in Indianapolis

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Franciscan Health Foundation announced on Monday that they received a $184,190 grant from the Cigna Foundation so they can improve their outreach efforts for the growing Burmese community in Indianapolis.

The grant will fund the Burmese Community Health Worker (BCHW), who will provide “culturally appropriate” one-on-one assistance for Burmese Franciscan Health clients so they will have better access to essential health services.

Indianapolis homes approximately 25,000 refugees from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), who were driven from their homeland due to political, social and religious oppression, and continue to face many barriers in their new home.

These barriers include poverty, low income, language barriers, lack of access to crucial resources and a lack of trained professionals that could provide assistance in overcoming these barriers. Research had found that socioeconomic status and language barriers are major contributors to health disparities among ethnic minorities.

The grand will allow Franciscan Health Foundation to hire a BCHW who is specially trained in better helping the Burmese population in Indianapolis.

“We are thrilled that the Cigna Foundation has partnered with Franciscan Health Foundation to provide pathways to better healthcare and essential living opportunities for our large Burmese population,” said Caitlin Leahy, senior vice president for Franciscan Health Foundation and Community Health Improvement, in a press release. “Cigna’s commitment to building healthier communities buttresses our efforts to improve the lives of a sometimes-forgotten group in greater Indianapolis.”

The BCHW will provide assistance in the Burmese language while patients are learning English. They will conduct home visits in order to support health management and give instructions on following provider’s recommendations for healthy lifestyles.

“We are proud to partner with the Franciscan Health Foundation, which shares our mission to improve the health and well-being of the people and communities we serve,” said Brian Marsella, Midwest market president for Cigna. “Through this Cigna Foundation grant, our Burmese neighbors in Indianapolis will have access to much-needed support and guidance to help them live healthier lives and take advantage of the community resources available to them.”

The BCHW position was filled by BiakTha Sui. She anticipates serving as a liaison between the Burmese population and community health and social service agencies to assist in finding food, safe housing, interpreters, language education, job skills and of course, access to essential healthcare services.

“As a member of the Burmese community myself, I am grateful that Franciscan has done so much for us,” Sui said.  “The fact they were able to secure a Cigna Foundation grant to fund my position reflects their continued commitment to helping thousands of Burmese adjust and succeed to their new home.”

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